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Printable: Teaching Social Cues

Posted by Faith Mackey on Aug 1, 2023 12:43:00 PM
Faith Mackey

Recently we conducted a very non-scientific poll in our PATHS Educators Facebook Group on what topic they are most concerned about for their students when returning to school. The winning topic was "understanding social cues!"

Properly interpreting social cues is vital when interacting with others. With so much time spent behind a screen, many children may now struggle to identify social cues when face to face.

So without further adieu... let's talk about social cues! 

Teaching Social Cues: what are social cues and how are they expressed? Let's learn!What are social cues?

Social cues are both verbal and non-verbal signals that are used to emote how someone is feeling. They are expressed through voice (tone of voice), body language, facial expressions, and more! These verbal and non-verbal signals show how an interaction is going and where the conversation might go. For example, if someone has their arms crossed and their brow is furrowed during a conversation, one might assume that the person is upset by the interaction, or that they are cold, or something else is bothering them. 

Ways to teach social cues

  1. Improv
    • Using the template provided, write down some improv prompts and have students act out the different situations. Remember: It is important to express how one’s tone of voice, body stance, body language, and facial expressions would be while acting. 
  2. Practice making eye contact.
  3. Encourage students to notice other's body language (aka, the people-watching game!).
  4. Discuss with your student (or child) what are common reactions to certain events, such as:
    • A surprise party-> one might be happy and surprised (what does that look like?)
    • A haunted house on Halloween-> one might be excited or scared (what does that look like?) 
    • During an argument-> one might be upset, angry, or curious (what does that look like?) 
  5. Use modeling when needed and set a good example
    • In a situation where you are upset, you may want to verbally explain the verbal and non-verbal signals that your body is showing. Basically providing a how-to for others to know “how you can tell that I am upset.” 

While learning social cues for some students can be difficult it is all about practice, practice, practice! Click on the images below to download our social cues improv cards! We have included four example cards as well as a blank set for you to come up with your own examples too! 

Social cues practice cards

Blank Social Cues Improv Cards


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Topics: Social and emotional learning, Printables, Resources, SEL Resources